Viking River Cruises Review
Recently, I sailed on my first Viking River Cruise up the Rhine River to explore Switzerland, Germany, France and The Netherlands on their classic ‘Rhine Getaway’ river cruise.
The entire trip was calm and relaxing and I felt like it struck the perfect balance of sightseeing and leisure!
I’ve taken several European river cruises cruises with family before and immediately knew my mom would love the smaller atmosphere, quaint towns and relaxing vibe, so I brought her along for the trip!
I know river cruising is not for everyone so if you’re curious about Viking specifically or more generally wondering what there is to see and do along the Rhine River, I thought I’d recap our trip to show you the highlights.
I would recommend this trip if you enjoy small colorful towns, World War II history and good food.
Keep reading below for a complete review of what cruising with Viking is like!
Or quickly jump to:
- Rhine River Itinerary
- River Cruises vs Ocean Cruises
- Best European River Cruises
- Sailing with Viking
Rhine Getaway Itinerary
We started in Basel, Switzerland (up north on the Rhine River) and ended at Amsterdam in The Netherlands.
Viking also offers the same route in reverse, from Amsterdam to Basel so you can pick either option. For a couple stops on the journey, boats running in opposite cities are docked together.
We had a wonderful time and especially loved how organized the entire Viking journey was, from pre-departure to on-board, everything was seamless.
Also unlike many other cruises or guided tours, almost everything was included, which made it feel like a truly relaxing vacation.
Here’s a snapshot of our 7-day itinerary and what we got up to each day!
Day 1: Arrive in Basel, Switzerland
We arrived in the small, quaint town of Basel after our international flight.
This was the general arrival / travel date so we expected to just check in and relax but discovered that Viking organized a guided walking tour of the town. That was a nice surprise!
There’s also the option to arrive a couple days early and/or stay a couple days late. If you are thinking of this, here’s a quick guide to the best hotels in Basel to help with accommodation.
Basel is an underrated tourist attraction and the third largest city in Switzerland. The town has a gorgeous Medieval center and plenty of world-class art museums.
There’s a reason Art Basel is held here!
We checked out the Romanesque cathedral, took endless pictures of the colorful medieval buildings and headed back to our ship to relax and meet everyone for cocktails and dinner. A great first day!Read more: An Afternoon in Basel, Switzerland’s Most Underrated City!
Day 2: Germany’s Black Forest & Colmar, France
On our second day, we sailed northward to dock at Breisach, Germany.
In the morning, we learned how to make cuckoo-clocks, put together Black Forest cake and walked a bit throughout the Black Forest.
The wooded mountain range is the site of many local legends and populated all over with black fir trees. If you like hiking, the mountains are wonderful!
In the afternoon, we signed up for an optional tour to Colmar.
Located in the Alsace Lorraine region, the town is part of France but throughout much of history, changed hands between Germany and France.
You’ll find lots of German and French spoken as a result!
I highly recommend visiting this quaint medieval town. Every street looks perfectly preserved and it’s quite colorful. We wandered mostly on our own, ducking into gelato shops and chocolate stores while enjoying the colorful, medieval feel.Read more: The Most Picturesque Alsatian Town of Colmar
Day 3: Strasbourg, France
If you skip the optional to Colmar, no worries!
Strasbourg is its larger cousin and also located in Alsace, France.
We had a wonderful guide for this day who guided us throughout the small canals, pointing out colorful streets and letting us know about Strasbourg’s tangled history in the hands of Germany and France.
Strasbourg occupies a strategic position on the Rhine River and is the ninth largest city in France.
It’s home to many European councils and organizations, like the European Court of Human Rights (a building built like a ship) and the Council of Europe.
For the most part, we stuck to the Old Medieval Town but drove through the modern section. Highly recommend a visit to the Cathedral!
Day 4: Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is a university town with a energetic, small town feel.
In the morning, we visited Heidelberg Castle, which perhaps should be called a ruined fortress, as much of it was destroyed by lightening, fires and war.
The ruins and castle are built high above the city and the observation terrace is well worth a look!
Meanwhile, the city was almost entirely spared from bomb attacks during World War II and it’s narrow streets and baroque charm remain largely intact.
We explored Heidelberg’s Old Town (Altstadt) by walking along the main shopping street Hauptstrasse. This is actually the longest shopping street in Europe!
For the most part, I spotted large chain stores & restaurants.
I actually recommend skipping this street to explore the quaint alleyways and backstreets instead. Much more picturesque!Read more: The Best of Heidelberg Germany in 1 Day
Day 5: Rhine River Castles & Koblenz, Germany
By day 5, we had reached the middle Rhine!
We spent our morning above deck watching the gorgeous small German towns and castles along both sides of the Rhine River. Our Viking program director gave a guided audio tour along the way, pointing out castles left and right.
Many of them are situated high above local towns and we saw lots of German camper vans parked at the base.
I recommend bringing a pair of binoculars for this part, as some of the castles can be set a bit farther away and the detail through a zoom is incredible.
By afternoon, we reached Koblenz, a city set at the mouth of two rivers.
We explored Marksburg Castle and wandered a bit on our own after. This was another ruined fortress high above the river.
Interesting history, but definitely wear good shoes! The entire castle is unpaved, rocky and entirely uneven.
Note – a couple others from the cruise did the optional dinner excursion on this day and raved about it.Read more: A Photo Diary of Pretty Rhine Castles
Day 6: Cologne, Germany
During the Holy Roman Empire, Cologne was the largest medieval town in Europe. Naturally, it’s Gothic cathedral is the hallmark draw!
The nice thing about this stop is the ship can dock right into town, so you can join the tour or explore on your own.
We explored the Kölner Dom’s interior and were suitably awed.
If you want a great view, Viking offers an optional tour that takes you all the way to the very top! I had already been to Cologne on a previous trip so instead, we opted for a palace excursion.
I *love* an over the top, beautifully decorated mansion and have a whole series dedicated to them here.
We visited Augustusburg Castle, one of two gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site classified as Bruhl Palaces.
The castle was once home to the prince-archbishops of Cologne and is decked out in gold, marble and all-around extravagance. I particularly liked the massive entryway staircase which was gilded and made my mouth drop open when we turned the corner.
Highly recommend this day trip if you love castles half as much as I do!
The interiors were really unique and the guided tour was excellent.
After the main palace, we did a quick tour of the hunting lodge as well, which was just as stunning. This is one stop I definitely wished we had more time in!
Day 7: Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
Kinderdijk is home to the Netherlands’ famous windmills.
I’ll admit I didn’t know too much about the country outside of Amsterdam and our guide was quite helpful to explain the history of the nation and the purpose of its many windmills.
Much of the Netherlands would sink, were it not for windmills to pump away water.
We even got to tour inside the home of a windmill keeper (see photos of a windmill interior here!). What I didn’t realize was that windmill caretakers actually lived inside them with their families!
I thought the interiors were particularly interesting and our guide mentioned that some Dutch families managed to fit 13 children inside.
They’re quite small so I noticed lots of hooks for hanging, curved bunk-bed type rooms and lots of stair ladders. The Dutch windmill keepers also had a number of really unique boats which I took too many pictures of!
Fun fact: Kinderdijk is in the region of Holland in the nation of The Netherlands where the people speak Dutch.Read more: Visiting A Dutch Windmill Home (and other day trips from Amsterdam!)
The Rhine Getaway Cruise
One thing I liked about sailing with Viking is how leisurely the day to day pace is.
There’s generally an opportunity to sight see in the morning and afternoon, with one included tour and one optional tour.
We chose to do 2 optionals and on the other days, relaxed on board or went into town to explore on our own! It was a well-balanced pace and I truly felt “on vacation”.
Here’s a recap of our daily itinerary with Viking:
|Day 1||Arrive in Basel, Switzerland|
|Day 2||Morning: Sail to the Black Forest
Afternoon: Explore Colmar, France
|Day 3||Explore Strasbourg, France|
|Day 4||Morning: Explore Heidelberg’s Castle and Old Town.
Evening: Stop in Rudesheim
|Day 5||Morning: See German castles along the Rhine River
Afternoon: Visit Koblenz, Germany
|Day 6||Morning: Visit Cologne, Germany
Afternoon: Day trip to Bruhl Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
|Day 7||See dutch windmills at Kinderdijk. Arrive in Amsterdam in late evening.|
How River Cruises Differ vs. Ocean Cruises
Many of our stops were small European villages and medium sized cities, so we felt like we were able to see all the top sights without missing anything.
The best part? enjoying the comfort of a luxurious ship without worrying about transportation from town to town and only unpacking once.
I think most of us are familiar with large ocean liners that sail to the Caribbean.
River cruises offer a very different experience – they’re much smaller ships, typically seating only 150-200 passengers.
The Viking Hlin ship that I was on had about 150 passengers and approximately 60 crew members, for reference.
In general rivers are much calmer than the open seas and you won’t have to worry about rough seasickness.
We did a fun tour of the wheelhouse and learned from the Captain that Viking ships utilize four propellers instead of a traditional rudder.
Because of this, they have the flexibility to turn each propeller a full 360 degrees for precision and smooth sailing so you shouldn’t experience any seasickness on board.
More About the Sights, Not On Board Entertainment
River cruising is a much more intimate experience, with unreserved seating at meal times so you get to mix and mingle with almost everyone on board by the end (if you want!).
There’s less on-board entertainment (no nightclubs or casinos on board) but each evening people congregated in the lounge by the bar and Viking had an on-board pianist.
A couple nights during the week, Viking hosted either singers, dancers or local activities.
My favorite was the glass blowing demonstration by a glass master from Germany! He was quite an artist and had different glassblowing techniques than what I saw when I went to Venice.
The number one reason why I like river cruises so much is because you get to see many small towns and sights in a leisurely fashion.
Depending on your journey, you stop in a new town every day or so and can get on and off the ship easily and on your own pace, without queuing for hours!
When I went on my cruise to Cuba, we received a group number each evening for the next day’s stop. That was a medium sized ship (roughly 500-1,000 passengers) and disembarking into town took about 2 hours, so depending on which group you were in.
I’m pretty impatient and hated the long lines. Everyone still has to be back on board at the same time, so for certain port stops, you would get much less time in town if you were part of the last disembarkation group.
Which is the Best European River Cruise?
I wouldn’t say there’s a “best” European cruise per se, but there are a couple main rivers in Europe that offer river cruise experiences. The most popular are the Rhine River, the Elba and the Danube.
- The Rhine River runs from the Swiss Alps through the Franco-German border and empties into the North Sea up in the Netherlands. This is the route we took.
- The Elba River is a major Central European river and predominantly flows through Germany and the Czech Republic. A small bit flows through Austria and Poland.
- The Danube River is quite long, flowing through 10 countries through Central and Eastern Europe. It starts in Germany and flows along the borders of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. I did this route years ago with family and loved it because I felt like I saw so much of Eastern Europe in one go. Lots of quaint, small towns perfect for a quick afternoon visit!
Viking Cruises Review
Our Rhine Getaway hit a couple towns throughout Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands in one convenient week.
Plus it had the added bonus of only unpacking once!
You can see the route we took in the Rhine River cruise map below.
Flights & Our Pre-Trip Experience
Once you book your Viking river cruise, the fun part is checking out the daily itinerary and browsing the optional excursions!
I was really impressed with Viking’s interactive website called My Viking Journey.
They have a handy map to show the journey along the Rhine River and make it easy to see what your options are each day. If you happen to pick an optional that conflicts with an included tour or a different optional tour, the website lets you know immediately.
Should You Book Airfare Through Viking?
Viking also offers airfare.
We set a fare alert and browsed for flights on our own, and after comparing it to the Viking customer service rep, found that they were able to get us a better deal. I was pretty amazed actually!
So I recommend booking airfare through Viking (after doing a price comparison on your own, of course). It seems the company has relationships with partner airlines and is able to typically find flights cheaper than you can do on your own.
Another advantage to booking airfare through Viking is they also include round trip transfers.
We found this really handy after long travel days. For the arrival, our bus picked us up at the airport in Basel and left straightaway, which we really appreciated!
(Sometimes group tours will wait for the entire 50 passenger bus to fill up, which means you can get off a long trans-Atlantic flight and sit around for 90 minutes waiting for additional flights to land.)
On our departure, we had a very early flight so they arranged a cab direct to the airport – everything is totally taken care of!
Our On-board Experience on Viking’s Hlin Ship
We sailed aboard the Viking Hlin.
All of Viking’s fleet are individually named after different Nordic Gods and Goddesses and while many of the river cruise ships are similar or even identical, the small touches and art are unique.
Each ship has a giant painting of the Nordic god at the top of the main staircase, dedicated to the deity it’s named after.
Having sailed on a couple other river cruises, I loved how distinctively luxurious the Viking ship and rooms were.
Veranda Room Tour
Our Veranda stateroom was spacious, bright and airy with minimalist Nordic furniture and a cozy balcony.
The ships are well designed to really maximize space and cabins feature a giant closet and tons of drawers to put away your clothes, should you wish to fully unpack.
Most river cruises are quite cozy and I typically keep my clothes in packing cubes… this was the first time I’ve fully unpacked!
There’s also a flat screen TV to listen to the daily on-boarding speech (if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your room) or to check the weather, watch TV, etc.
Our cabin had plenty of outlets, both European and American, so I could easily keep all my electronics charged.
On Board Amenities
My favorite part of our floor was the coffee & espresso bar to grab pastries and java any time of day. I helped myself to endless madeleines and double dark chocolate muffins.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention – Viking includes wifi on-board free of charge.
I thought that was such a nice touch given that I’m addicted to my phone. Internet service is a slower than usual, as it’s satellite service on the river and therefore inherently slower.
If you’ve cruised before you’ll appreciate this luxury! All other cruise lines charge exorbitant internet fees and still have slow service.
The Viking Ship
Our room was kept immaculately clean and always stocked with fresh fruit and water, thanks to a diligent cleaning staff. I’m a bit of a germaphobe and really felt at home on board.
The entire ship is airy and light-filled and despite it being a small river ship, it feels more spacious and open than some large cruise ships.
Above on the sun deck, they even have a small herb garden to season meals freshly.
In contrast, I once stayed on a ship where you had to step up into the bathroom and when the door was open, half the cabin space was used up – naturally, half the time I forgot the step existed and face planted.
Viking cabins have a pocket door so that the cabins feel spacious with glass door showers and fully openable doors that tightly seal, so water doesn’t get everywhere.
I did a cabin tour on my Instagram stories during the trip (@shershegoes) and got tons of messages that people were surprised how spacious and luxurious the cabins were!
Viking also clearly pays attention to the small details.
They design everything with care:
- heated bathroom floors
- angling the hallways to maximize cabin space
- large-flip cap toiletries that don’t leave you struggling to open them (vs screw offs)
- high quality European fixtures
- leather staircase railings
…just some small details I noticed, but I could go on endlessly!
It’s really clear on-board that Viking don’t skimp out on customer service and they all added up to make a seamless vacation.
Meals & Dining
All three meals are included on-board.
You have the choice to take meals either in the formal dining room or upstairs in the more casual Aquavit restaurant. We have nothing but great things to say about the meals!
Outdoor or Indoor Options
If you like to socialize and want a formal 3-course menu dinner, try the formal dining room on the main floor.
If you want more relaxed, casual food with perhaps a table for just 2, the Aquavit upstairs is a great alternative. We had lunch a couple times there and it’s quite nice to see the river views and sit outside.
Viking also makes a effort to include local cuisine.
One night we had an Austrian / German night, with local specialties like sauerkraut, sausages, pretzels, schnitzel and plenty of German beer.
It was a themed night, where the dining room transformed into checkered tablecloths, the staff put on their lederhosen and mini kegs were emptied!
Wines are included during dinner times, which I personally haven’t seen on any other cruise!
There’s also the option to purchase a Silver Spirits drink package if you wish to indulge in wine, beer and/or soft drinks before or after dinner.
Viking’s Included Walking Tours
Each day, there’s an included guided walking tour.
All the local guides were quite knowledgeable and Viking provides headsets so you can clearly hear. There’s even a designated group for those who wish to tour at a slower pace.
What I really liked was that there’s no pressure to stay with the tour. You’re free to start with the tour and slip away if you find a restaurant you like or somewhere you want to linger (although it’s nice to let the guide know so they don’t wait for you).
They really encourage you to make the most of your trip.
And that’s it! Are you headed on a river cruise?
Let me know if you have any questions about our Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises in the comments below.
European River Cruise – Trip Planning Checklist
We opted to extend our stay in Europe after the cruise. Viking offers both pre and post extensions, which are a fun way to see more of Europe and combine the best of both worlds (guided group tours with individual trips).
For our flights, we took advantage of Viking’s flight booking service. We set fare alerts and browsed for flights on our own, and after comparing it to the Viking customer service rep, found that they were able to get us a better deal.
Be sure to get travel insurance for your river cruise. River cruises are highly dependent on local water levels, and abnormally low water can negatively impact your trip by forcing the boat to re-route.
In recent years, the Elba river has occasionally suffered from extreme low water levels – perhaps due to global warming? In any case, don’t end up disappointed – travel insurance will help when you need it most. Get a quote for your trip here.
You Might Also Enjoy:
Cruising on the Seine River from Paris to Normandy
Lobsters & Lighthouses: Sailing on a Maine Windjammer
Europe Travel Articles
1 Day in Basel: Switzerland’s Most Underrated City!
Colmar, France: Is this Beauty in the Beast Town Real?
Everything to See & Do in Heidelberg, Germany
German Castles: A Photo Diary of Castles on the Rhine River
Fun Day Trips from Amsterdam: Visiting A Dutch Windmill Home
Follow me @Sher She Goes on
Those photos are just perfect! They made me want to travel Europe more. Thanks for sharing such an informative post! :)
This looks so amazing. Your pictures are absolutely stunning. Such a great informative post.
I have never been on a river cruise abroad. I am not sure that the tour that we did on the Ohio river would count as a cruise lol! I would like to visit here. All of your photos make me really want to plan a trip.
Wow, amazing indeed! I have to add this to my bucket list of places to visit! Your pictures are Stunning!!
The itinerary for this trip is near perfect. I think I’d enjoy every single thing planned. I especially like what’s scheduled on the third day.
Strasbourg is definitely a highlight! Supposedly the university is fantastic and has affordable tuition, i might just apply!
These photos make me want to head out on a cruise right now. I love the exotic feel of the settings in these photos and the breathtaking views. Someday I will get it together enough to visit.
Hey Melissa, glad you like the itinerary/photos! Hope you get to experience it soon :)
I was sooooooo excited to read your article! I have wanted to go on a Viking River Cruise for awhile now. Thanks so much for the helpful information.
It was my first Viking River Cruise and I totally loved it (as you can tell from the post) Let me know if you have any questions and I hope you sail with them soon!
Oh that looks amazing and your photography is beautiful. I would really love to do one of these holidays but with 6 children i worry about all the water! lol
This sounds much better than I expected! Some family members have been trying to get me to do one of these. Thanks for sharing!
This was an excellent review! I’ve always wondered about Viking River Cruises and have strayed away from them because I just had never heard much about them. I love cruising on the big ships though, so I’m sure I would love a river cruise as well!
Hey! Thank you so much for the detailed information about your cruise. I am actually headed on this cruise in a week and I’m very excited.
Ah you’ll love it!! Have fun :)
Im obsessed with this blog! My fiancé and I are taking our honeymoon early and heading on the Rhine Getaway in 2 weeks. Is there and particular must dos in the other places where you don’t have the more thorough blog posts? Also do you have any more pictures of the verandah room, as that is the room type we will be in, and of the ship itself? What was the weather like? Are there specific things we should be packing as far as clothes or anything else?
Hi Alyssa, ooh have fun! Hm I think Viking’s included tours do a great job of showing you the main highlights in each town, while giving you some free time to explore or have lunch in town if you wish.
I did the optional tour to Augustusberg palace which I really enjoyed, its on the Cologne day. Just a gorgeous, unique palace and hunting lodge. There’s also an optional to see the top of Cologne’s cathedral which other people on the ship liked. And then one night there’s a fancy dinner in a palace – I didn’t sign up for it but almost regretted it bc it got rave reviews from those who did! I think its the same night as the German dinner night on board so whatever you pick you’ll have a fabulous dinner. Definitely recommend the Colmar optional, which I have the post about. If you havent been to Amsterdam before you might want to stay longer after.
We went in early May and it rained a bit and was pretty cold. Viking has huge umbrellas, which was a nice touch bc I forgot to bring mine. Other than that nothing specific to pack – its pretty casual. It’s summer now so I’m sure the weather will be much better for you!
You’ll love the rooms! I was so impressed with how comfortable they were given that its a river cruise and the ship is small. My pictures of our room didn’t come out so nice because my stuff was sprawled everywhere ha.. but we had a veranda room as well! Loved the balcony. All the bathrooms have heated floors which I loved and now want to install in my bathroom. I snuck a peek at the suites which have a separate living room area and look really really nice. I’ve also never seen a more diligent cleaning staff!!
We sailed on the Hlin ship, which I think they said was 8 years old, but looked almost brand new to me. Viking takes amazing care of their river ships! I chatted to the staff one day and they spend the winter season breaking everything down, cleaning and doing engineering things to keep it in great shape.
Oh! Do the roundhouse mini tour where you get to see the caption’s… office thing on the roof. He tells you how the ship steers and has some fun facts about the mechanics. I always find that kind of stuff interesting (how things work, how they became ships captain etc). If I remember correctly its something you can sign up for on one of the slow days when we’re cruising. Only if you’re interested, its not an official tour or anything!
Oh and bring binoculars if you have them! It’ll come in handy the morning where we saw the german forts on the Rhine. I brought a gigantic zoom lens to take those photos, the castles are high up on hills while the ship sails in the middle of the Rhine. Feel tree to shoot me any more questions and I’ll do my best to answer :)
Can’t say enough great things about Viking and I’m already dreaming about doing another with them!
Thanks! Any chance you have a list or something of the times you were in and out of each port? I’d love to know how long we get to stay each place
No. You can try checking the viking journey site for more info. It was generally around a 1 hr tour and maybe an 30min – hour of free time
But like the whole day how early could you get off the ship and how late could you start in port before you had to be back on? I can’t find that information anywhere.
It depends on when the ship gets into town and if it’s departing for a different town that evening or docking overnight.
Do you remember which ports you were docked at overnight?
Don’t remember off the top of my head but check your My Viking Journey portal! Lots of helpful info there :)
We did the Viking Paris to Normandy cruise in September of 2016. It was wonderful. We’re booking the Rhine Getaway today for September of next year. Thanks so much for all the helpful information!!
Did you fly nonstop to Basel or make a connection? I’ve bookmarked this page as I will be doing the same cruise next summer. :)
Hey Tiffany – I had a connection in Europe. I do recommend checking out flight pricing with Viking – they surprised me with cheaper airfare than I could find on my own and they also took care of the transfers. You can just ask them what the flight price will be before committing and do a little comparison check with google flights. Enjoy your trip, its a fab river cruise experience :)
Loved your post. I’m thinking of going next April. I have two questions: what are the temperatures like and is there a fitness or exercise room on board? It sound silly, but with all that eating I’ll want to do something to keep the weight off.
Hi Bonnie – I went in mid May and it was still chilly..anywhere from 40-60 degrees. This year I remember being surprised, because we had a very late spring season so it’s hard to say what 2018 will be like! It rained a couple times in the first 2 days of the trip, and I forgot to pack my umbrella, but luckily Viking has some HUGE umbrellas on board for guests to borrow. I know for me personally, even though it can be colder I prefer traveling to Europe in April/May before the crowds hit.
River cruise ships are small so there’s usually no room on board for a dedicated fitness room. That said on the roof of the ship, they have a track loop so some runners used that to their advantage. I think it was 13 laps on the roof deck equaled 1 mile and I only remember that because my mom kept up with her daily mile runs ha. On Viking’s ocean cruises, those ships are bigger and I believe Viking has both a fitness room and a pool on ocean routes.
All of the included daily tours are walking tours, so you do walk some of it off although I agree with you – it’s hard to restrict yourself on vacation and there can be some longer bus rides where you just sit and sit! Have a fabulous trip and let me know if you have any other questions
My name is Sunny Fletcher, I really enjoyed your write up and it was super inspiring! My boyfriend and I loved this particular itinerary but did not see it on the viking site when we searched for this particular 7 day cruise. Do you have any other cruise lines you could suggest? Also what is the predominate age group on these cruises. We are in our 40’s would we feel out of place? Thanks for your help.
Hi Sunny! So glad you liked it. I would say you would be more in place than I was on the trip ha! Im in my 20s and went with my mom. The crowd has a good mix of age groups, predominantly 40+ to retirees and I would say Viking is a more active program than other river cruises. I do a lot of tours with my family so I guess I’m maybe more used to being the odd one out, but I don’t mind as long as the itinerary is good!
Here is the cruise we took, it’s called their Rhine Getaway route. I heard that they also offer the same route during the holiday season, when Christmas markets are open so you might like that idea too.
Enjoyed your piece on the Viking Rhine Getaway. We’re likely going to book it for May 2018. With both artificial hips, spine issues, etc., I don’t walk so well, or far, anymore. My wife is fine, can walk forever. With my cane I can do probably a mile before a rest. I’m wondering about the shore excursions, many of which are “walking tours”. Will I be able to do them? If not, what are the options?
Hi Jerry! I think you would love the cruise and will try to provide my perspective.
All the included excursions are walking tours but some cities involve a bus to get to the town first while other cities viking can dock right in town so the actual walking part is not necessarily that strenuous. Cities like Colmar and Basel have compact Old Towns so the walking is quite short, but Marksburg Castle was very uneven inside (lots of cobblestone old steps) that I even found that shaky.
Regardless i would say that Viking is very accommodating.
There was a man on our tour who was blind and used a cane and he did all of the walking tours. Sometimes the guide gave him a hand. For some towns, Viking offered bicycle tuk tuks or cabs to drive passengers right to the town center. I felt the tours were quite leisurely paced and if at any time you don’t want to continue, you can leave the group to explore at your own pace or do your own thing altogether.
Many thanks for your reassuring reply. Most likely I’ll be fine. I wonder if Uber is available along the Rhine River route?
A couple more questions. I’m trying to do a little research on flights in and out. We’ll probably book through Viking, but I’d like to see what the options are regarding connections, etc. Do you remember what the required times were to get aboard the ship, and to leave at the end? Should we plan to arrive a day before departure?
Hm not sure about Uber. Lots of European countries ban it so I wouldn’t count on it, but there are regular cabs and the bike tuk tuks. Plus viking’s bus coaches.
You can arrive early or stay later but I flew in the day of departure. If I remember right, the boat sets sail in early evening so arriving the day of in the morning is fine. If you want to explore more of town, then I would stay extra.
We did the Basel > Amsterdam route. Basel is very small and I felt like we saw enough on the day of. If you arrive in the AM, Viking is nice and provides a complimentary informal walking tour of the old town! Lots of people extended their stay in Amsterdam since you don’f actually see that city during the itinerary.
I don’t remember the exact time you should leave, because we flew to Copenhagen on a very early flight. I think maybe they ask you to leave by early afternoon? So they have time to clean the boat before the next sailing route. Hope that helps!
Sadly Viking no longer provides this walking tour of Basel on the day of arrival. I checked with them A few days ago prior to our departure today and Viking said that the walking tour was no longer available. Very disappointed!
aw that sucks. i guess a lot has changed with covid. you’ll still have a great time i hope!
Hi,I have taken two Viking trips, the Danube Waltz two years ago and the Balzel to Amsterdam last year, I can’t say enough about how wonderful the trips themselves were, however, the air fair provided was another story. I understand it is offered free, BUT, when you are stuck in the last row in the plane, get told this is the only food option that is left and sorry there is NO WATER AVAILABLE, it made for a very long ride home from France with a man in front of us who had definitely not showered in a while.
Hey Dolores – sorry to hear you had a bad flight! To be honest I hate the entire flying experience and never have a great flight! I don’t think Viking has anything to do with the airline (ours wasn’t free) and we had a couple options for flight options/ seats etc
Nice read. Quick question what is Vikings policy to bringing your own alcohol drinks on board. It sounds like it would be nice to sit on the room balcony with a bottle of wine.
Hi Ron – sorry for the delayed response, I think I missed seeing this! Yes, you can definitely sit on your room balcony and enjoy your own bottle of wine. Just so you know, all wine is included during meal times as well. I’m not a huge drinker but spent lots of mornings enjoying my coffee on the balcony.. it was so relaxing! :)
HELLO, we are taking the Rhine River cruise in late Oct. I know no one can accurately forecast the weather,wondering what kind of jacket/coat should I pack. Also, will the christmas markets be open?
Hi Lynda, I would think it’d be pretty cold. Usually October in central Europe is ~50s during the day and as low as ~40s around night time. I would probably pack jeans/long pants, light sweaters and either a wool coat like this http://bit.ly/2vz4X6w or if you’re wearing layers, a windbreaker like this one: http://bit.ly/2wz0plj.
Unfortunately the Christmas markets don’t open until late November but I would think October would be a beautiful time to see fall folliage along the river? Autumn is my favorite season so I’m sure it will be even more magical in Europe. Have a great trip!
Thanks for the great review. I’m taking this trip in April 2018 but in reverse. This answered many of my questions. Thanks for all the great details. I can’t wait.
Lots of helpful info there! Someone just told me that she had been on 3 river cruises — I think all Viking — and that you had to leave the ship around 7:30 a.m. if you wanted to join the walking tour. I’ve never heard anyone else mention such an early start. Did you experience this on your trip?
Hm.. I think I got up by 7:30am but I don’t think we left the ship quite that early. I want to stay it was about ~7:30am breakfast, leave by 8:30-9am. There are generally 2 time slots for tours per day, one in the morning and one after lunch – you can do both or just do one. Usually everyone does the morning one and if you book an optional tour, that would be your afternoon option.
FTo be honest, every land group tour that I’ve been on and when I travel personally, I get up very early to see as much as possible so I felt like Viking was nice and a “slower pace”. One lady at dinner mentioned she thought the times were early for her, so I guess it depends on your personal travel style!
Once you book a tour, Viking has a section of their website called “my viking journey” where you can see the optional tours offered and it makes it very easy to see the tour times so that you don’t double book yourself. Hope that helps!
If the intinerary shows a tour for morning or morning and afternoon does that mean they leave after the tour or do they stay till evening so you can mull around?
Hi Margie – it depends! If the ship is staying in town and not sailing onward, you can stay out on your own after the tour, have lunch in town instead of on the ship, wander etc. For example, I think in Strasbourg some of us did this. Also in Cologne we docked overnight so you could hang out all night until the early AM if you wanted!
If you decide you’ve seen enough when the tour ends, then you can take advantage of the included shuttle bus to take you back to the ship.
Sometimes, the ship sails onward or if it’s an optional tour it might be a town far away from the dock, so it’s expected that you’ll go with the group. For example, the Colmar optional tour which I took takes you to Colmar (which is not close to the dock) so you wouldn’t want to linger. Hope that helps!
I love the idea of a river tour, especially the unpacking bit. ;) How was the social situation on board? Were the other guests mostly much older? I think that’s what’s holding me back on trying it myself. I don’t want to be the only 30-something on a ship full of seniors. :\
Hi Melissa! Ha yes the unpacking part and luxurious room were too good to pass up. Hm.. it’s definitely an older crowd, most people in their late 40s – 50s if I had to guess their ages. Some retirees as well. But, I do lots of group tours with my family and I would say its more of the “active” older / retired crowd vs those who just like to be shuttled from place to place.
There were some 30 something couples on board and at dinner you can either eat solo or mingle, so it just depends on what you prefer. If you prefer a really social atmosphere, European hostels are the best bet or I’ve had friends who went solo and joined something like a G Adventures tour for the social atmosphere.
Would you be going solo?
Because cabins are usually meant for 2 people, river cruises in general tend to charge a single supplement fee (I think Viking does, but I’m not certain).
Sher, My husband and I are traveling next June on Viking River Cruise Paris to Swiss Alps. I was wondering if you would suggest we bring binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens to see and get good pics from the river itself. Also wondering if you know how flexible they are regarding problems clients have with food issues? I was glad to hear that if the pace of the tour was too fast or slow that you could break away from the group, however are cabs fairly easy to find if you find yourself needing to return to the boat? Do you suggest a particular app for your phone to translate? Also wondering about carrying cash or credit cards for excursions, should we have both or did you find one better than the other? Thanks I know that’s a lot of questions!
Ooh Paris! Sounds like a good itinerary.
1) I’m a bit of a photo fanatic so I was very glad I brought my zoom lens. I think my mom would have appreciated binoculars, especially since she has poor vision. You can definitely see the castles from the naked eye on the boat, but if you want to see detail binoculars are helpful. Did you check out my German castles post? All those photos were shot with a 70-200mm lens (mostly at the 200mm mark) so as an example, you won’t see the individual castle windows or small town churches like in those photos without a zoom or binoculars. I mentioned it in the post because I didn’t bring binoculars on a safari trip to Africa and while I could see the animals just fine, a kind man lent me his for a day and it was such a better view! ha. So just personal preference.
2. Hm, I don’t personally have any dietary restrictions so I’m not sure. For dinner, there are always several options to choose from, including a vegetarian one. I *think* they have options for gluten free but I’m not 100% sure – you can try using the chat bot on the viking website or calling a customer service rep to make sure.
The waiters and all the staff are exceptionally friendly / helpful and can make menu substitutions if you don’t like anything or are allergic. I remember they had ipads during dinner service to jot notes & things. They also have excellent memories! If you wanted two appetizers or ahem, two desserts (like I sometimes did), they’re very generous with that, it’s not an issue. Or if you wanted appetizers instead of mains, that sort of thing is easy for them to accommodate.
3. I think cabs would be easy to find. I didn’t do the exact route you’re mentioning so some cities would be different, but in general I find that the stops were small European towns so it’s easy to wander and find your way back to the main square. Even Paris is not so big a city :)
Usually at the front desk, they will have maps of the city so ask for one of those before you disembark and if you want to explore on your own, then you can use the map. Also a tip is to download the offline Google Maps for each city you’ll be visiting. I always do that before I travel! I’m a big walker so with the offline map downloaded, you can navigate yourself back to the main square or the dock. And of course if you get cell service using something like Know Roaming (which I’ve reviewed on my blog briefly here) then you can get cell service too for emergencies.
Viking uses these headphone systems which are pretty good and they split the passengers into smaller groups, so if you see yourself wanting to explore more of the city just let the guide know you’re leaving the group and you can find out about local cabs or meeting points, etc. Every evening, they leave a pamphlet in your cabin so you can get a sense of what you’ll be visiting the next day.
4. I use google translate on my phone for translation but I think you do need cell service for it to work. In general everyone in Europe speaks excellent English :)
5. I rarely bring cash to be honest, I bring a couple credit cards which carry no foreign fees and I bring my debit card for the atm / emergencies. I’m also not a shopper / I don’t buy souvenirs anymore but if you like to shop, cash is helpful for small things like street fairs, flea markets, christmas market stalls, food stalls. Do you have Chase bank? You can call ahead and ask your local branch, mine in NYC can exchange euros same day, so if you want to bring like 100 – 200 euro just to be safe, you can try that. I’m sure other banks do it too.
For the optional tours, I would recommend booking those in advance. Some of the popular ones fill up. If you login to the “My Viking Journey” website it will show you, day by day, which tours are available and also will warn you if you’re booking overlapping tours or things that conflict. I found it quite handy! So since you book those ahead, you book them all on credit card.
In general I prefer credit cards because I get points and I find carrying cash /dealing with change a pain. But that’s just me!
Hope that helps – feel free to reach out if you have more questions.
I enjoyed your account of the river cruise and I’m curious as to how dressy or casual folks were. Do you have a packing list for this trip?
Hi Penny! Glad you liked the article.
People were pretty casual (pants, jeans, cold weather jackets etc) but I also went in May when the weather was still pretty chilly. For dinner time, I believe they ask for closed toe shoes and no shorts, but there isn’t a requirement for jackets so it’s no where near formal.
I haven’t written a packing guide yet but have gotten a couple requests so I’ll add that to my list of posts to write!
What did you do at night?
We either went back into town, had drinks in the lounge or stayed in to watch Downton Abbey (LOL).
It’s generally pretty quiet at night since it’s a small ship vs. huge ocean liners.
We also loved our river cruise! We left from Amsterdam in August and finished in Budapest with the optional trip to Prague.
One word of caution, while the glassblower’s demonstration was awesome, he has yet to send us any of the items we ordered and paid for. He said it would be 3 weeks…it is now about 5 months. After multiple emails to him (unanswered) and emails and phone calls to Viking we are giving up and disputing the charges on our card. I’ve seen other complaints on trip forums about him. I’m disappointed Viking still brings him on board!
Hi Nancy – glad to hear you liked the cruise as well! Wow, I had no idea about the glassblower. I’m wondering if it’s the same glassblower since the one on our trip didn’t have large items to ship, he brought lots of little items (candle holders, ornaments, figurines, vases, etc) that you purchased right there, they packaged up for you and then you took it with you right away.
I got one of the glass ornaments and hung it on my tree this past Christmas!
I’m so shocked to hear the glassblower you had didn’t ship promptly. Have you reached out to Viking customer service to file a claim and let them know? That’s very disappointing and you should dispute the charge if it’s been 5+ months and no package. Credit card companies are usually great about resolving that in your favor.
The glassblower was Karl Ittig. His business is Glas Haus Wertheim. We bought some shot glases from him on the ship and brought them
home with us. The problem is with what we ordered. We ordered 2 ornaments that were to have names etched in them along with the year. We also ordered a set of his Jagermeister shot glasses for our son with his monogram etched on them. Our friends also ordered his salad dressing bottles. They also have received nothing. We have contacted Viking several times. They said they’d look into it but nothing happened. The last time they were the ones to say to dispute the claim. It’s disappointing that Viking does not seem to care that much. It makes us wonder if they get some kind of a kickback from the glassblower.
I just google searched his name and photos of him came up. He’s not the same glassblower who was on my river cruise (Viking has so many ships I’m sure they have many, many glassblowers that they partner with).
Viking probably does get a kickback. Pretty much every travel company or tour builds in visits to local businesses and in return they get a % of commissions, just like a shoe salesman at any dept store. If you ever go on a Chinese tour – man, those take the cake for how many shopping visits they can pack in, all because they get a commission! Same with hotel concierges – they usually recommend restaurants they get a kickback from. such is life!
It’s really unfortunate that you haven’t received the items and that he essentially stole your money. If you paid via credit card, you should definitely get your money back. In my experience, American credit card companies (is yours american?) have fantastic customer service and you can file a dispute online very easily.
My husband and I are taking this river cruise next year for our 20th anniversary and I can’t wait. I really enjoyed reading your take on it and seeing all the pictures. Can you tell me where the above picture was taken with the yellow/cream colored building with all of the decorations and red hearts? It looks like a fun place to visit. Thank you, Michelle
Hi Michelle – have fun! It’s a great cruise. The yellow building with the hearts is in Colmar, France – possibly one of the cutest towns I’ve ever been to :)
We’re considering this same cruise (from Basel to Amsterdam). Curious to know, are there better views on one side of the ship than the other? We were thinking of getting a french balcony versus the veranda. Which did you have?
Hi Dawn! We didn’t feel like there were better views on one side or the other. Hm, I can’t remember the name of our room but we had a small narrow balcony with 2 chairs and a side table where we could drink coffee outside. It was nice to get fresh air and we sat on it once or twice during sailings. We also peeked into some suites and those looked HUGE!
I think the standard rooms are fine, since you don’t spend all that much inside.
Hi! My mom and I are thinking going on the same Vikings tour as you and your mom, but we are doing the reverse route. :) It’s nice to see that some other young people go as well! My question for you is that my mom will be 74 by the time we take this cruise. She can’t walk very long distances without needing to sit and rest for a couple of minutes. Bad knees and back. It seems like your excursions had a lot of walking involved. Do you think, in your experience, she will have issues with the walking tours that are provided by Viking?
Hi Sarah – sounds fun! I think she could do it. There’s 1 walking tour per day in each city / stop. The walking tours are about 1 hour, give or take, but if you get tired or want to leave, there’s no problem with ditching the tour to go stop at a cafe or go shopping. The tours are optional too, so if you and your mom would prefer you can always just leave the ship on your own and come back when you wish, instead of doing the tour. It depends on the stop (sometimes the boat isn’t docked in the center of town so it’d be difficult in those instances, it just depends on the river / boat area).
From the top of my head – the Black Forest is very doable, Colmar is a very small town so we booked the optional tour but explored on our own, the windmills are within walking distance from the boat and you can go at your own pace. Cologne we docked right in town. I wouldn’t recommend Marksburg castle because it’s very old and entirely uneven cobblestones.
The Viking staff can help you arrange a taxi or bike peddler if you want to go into town in more comfort or come back early. Overall I felt like the cruise was very relaxing. Hope that helps!
Hi Sarah – One thing I forgot to mention in my comment. Each day for the included walking tours, there is a designated group for those who want to explore at a slower pace. I didn’t join those groups so I’m not sure exactly how they work but thought that group could be great for your mom!
Considering this same cruise in 2019. Is there a bar on the ship to have a drink after dinner? Does Viking allow you to bring your own liquor on board?
Hi Diana – yes there is a nice bar and big lounge area. If you buy your own bottle of wine or spirits in the town, you can definitely bring it on board. I saw people drinking on their balcony. I’m not sure if you can bring your own liquor to the bar area though.
Loved the article. We just booked a Danube cruise so I’m excited and this is really helpful information. I can’t wait. It all sounds wonderful.
Great Blog, thanks. You photos are sensational. How did you compensate for the movement of the boat? Were you using a tripod? What’s your preferred camera? (We leave in 2 weeks! so excited.)
Hi Kathy – thanks so much for the kind words! Do you mean the photos of the German castles? For the most part, I shot these photos on the day excursions into each town, so we were on foot and exploring. I do have a tripod (this one) but the boat moves slowly enough when it sails that you can still get handheld shots. All my gear is listed on my FAQ page here :)
Thank you! Very helpful??
Thank you so much for your detailed comments from your Viking Riverboat Cruise on the Rhine. My husband and I are taking the same trip in June 2018 and were extremely impressed by your suggestions. It was wonderful reading about someone else’s experiences and recommendations. Your photography is oustanding. We are looking forward to our trip even more thanks to you!
Thanks so much for the kind words Patricia! Have a great time on your trip :)
Hi thanks for all the info in your blog….sounds like we have signed up for the right cruise.
We are taking the Rhine Getaway in July as a 70th birthday celebration for my husband. We are landing in Basel a couple days early and planned to take a train for a day trip to Lucerne (about an hour ride). Wondering if you have any thoughts about things to see/do in Lucerne?
We also extended a couple days in Amsterdam…any specific must sees (we were thinking of the hop on and off bus or canal boat give us flavor of city and an easy way to get around), and know we want to see the Ice Bar.
Thanks again for all you info!!!
Wow sounds like a great birthday celebration! Lucerne is very pretty, we just took it easy and walked around.
I have a post on day trips from Amsterdam here. The city itself is very popular, a bit crowded, so try to go early for things like the Anne Frank Museum. Try a canal cruise too! Since you have more time, I really liked visiting the Hague and Bruges. The Hague has some stunning buildings like the International Court of Justice while Bruges is more small town / medieval, very picturesque. Have a great trip!
Quite a thorough review. Many of our questions were answered.
We’ve not been to Germany before so we are curious and deciding between this river cruise or a land tour. It does sound like this would be a great first-time visit to upper Europe (We have been to Rome, Athens & Crete). I really would like to see the Alps too. We’d like to also see Lucerne(Cogwheel Train, Gondola) and Munich.
Hello, Thank-You for ALL the tips on River Cruising. My 89-year-old mother and myself are planning a 2019 Paris and the heart of Normandy in Early April. any recommendations or comments on that trip?
Great summary of the trip. We’re going on the Rhine cruise in November and can’t wait. Leaving from Miami to Basel. We’ve been in many cruises in large ships but this one will be a treat. Decided to go business class with Lufthansa and that will also be a treat. Thanks!
Hi John – glad you liked my recap! Ooh, business class on Lufthansa will be such a treat. Have a great time – I think you will like the more intimate atmosphere on a river cruise!
Planning a 25th Anniversary trip for my wife in 2020.
Really enjoyed reading about your experiences. Not sure yet what trip we want to take, but you make a great argument for the trip you described in this Rhine Getaway river cruise.
Thanks for the detail.
Sounds like an amazing anniversary trip! Have a great time Marty
Most important we do everything right on this trip in Sept Getaway Rhine. Long story, but neither myself or my companion has had a vacation in over 13 years — and I feel as if I’m planning in a vacuum. My companion is in his late eighties but wants to see the Rhine — I’m in my late seventies and just want to see something again. Would it be wise for us to just walk around the small villages rather than do the excursions? Some of them seem to take so long. My companion wants to see the war memorial in Colmar which we’ve signed up for and we have also reserved tickets to Van gogh exhibit. Am tempted to skip Heidelberg and Marksburg castle because of demanding climbs. All so confusing. Also, very important. we’ve been told many people wear jeans to dinner. True? Will appreciate your feedback — we must enjoy this trip. Thank you,
Hi Sandra – it’s up to you! Most of the guided tours take place in the morning (you’ll get a schedule the night before in your room), so you can decide what you’d like to do each day. I would suggest trying out 1 or 2 of the included free walking tours since you can always leave the group to go back to the ship or explore on your own if you no longer want to participate. Viking is very flexible and their tour guides are OK if you decide to leave mid-tour. Just let them know so they don’t include you in the headcount.
Yes, I would definitely suggest you skip Marksburg. The castle is in ruins and the footpaths are cobblestone – very uneven, very challenging for unsteady walkers. Heidelberg Castle is on a hill, but it’s much flatter and easier to walk, so it’s up to you.
You can wear whatever you want to dinner, Viking is pretty casual! Jeans are fine. Hope that helps!
Hi – great article, comprehensive & thoughtful! Wondering what time of year you went on the Viking river cruise?
Hi Kathy – I went in spring, at the beginning of the season!
Thank you for all the great information. We will be doing the same trip the first week of November and it’s so nice to hear we made a great decision!
Hi there! We’re on our final day of the Romantic Danube Viking River cruise. I agree with everything you’ve stated. Great ship, staff, food, and itinerary. Water levels are a huge deal, though. We’re presently completing a 3 hour bus transfer from Vienna to Budapest – missing one of the most scenic parts of the cruise. We are making our 2nd ship swap for the final night / our 3rd ship.
We received an email from Viking one week prior to departure telling us about the issue between Passau & Krems. Tuesday night our program director informed us of the additional issues past Vienna. We cruised the scenic Wachau valley after dark.
So we missed 2 of the 3 primary cruising segments. Spent 6-7 hours on buses – very nice buses- but buses.
We realize Viking can not control water levels, but their communication was late & misleading. They’ve been doing this for months – maybe years, yet acted like it was out of the ordinary. Passenger morale was affected. I’m not sure if they’ll offer vouchers. Some passengers were very upset.
Nothing about this on their website – apart from the fine print – but cruisers are blogging actively about this issue.
Great review, though.
-Scott S. from Boise
Hi Scott – Wow, yikes! So sorry to hear that your cruise had an issue. I hadn’t known about the water levels issue as our cruise was on the Rhine River, and to my knowledge, the Rhine River hasn’t had any critically low water levels. I’m not an expert by any means though.
I sympathize with you since it’s a terrible situation all around. Viking cant control the water, but naturally you didn’t have the full experience. It’s good that Viking had a back up plan so you could still at least experience the cities on the itinerary.
Has customer service gotten back to you about vouchers or anything else they can offer?
Also, just curious – when they emailed you a week before departure, were you able to cancel the cruise and opt for a later date?
We river cruised on emerald last year,sounds very comparable to Viking. They did include wine or beer with lunch and the 5 course dinner. You mentioned wine with dinner. Does Viking also include included wine and beer with lunch? . Viking is maybe more catered to Americans (ie: flight prices transatlantic). We are trying to find the best river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel,Switzerland, and this trip you took sounds wonderful. I do recommend you try out Emerald,they are fantastic. What would be comparable to a cabin with a “balcony” ? Ie: a window that rolls all the way down? These answers will possibly help us to decide. Thanks so much.
Hi Maria – I hadn’t heard of Emerald before, thanks for bringing them to my attention! I just looked them up and they seem to have very similar luxury river cruises. It seems like they are an Australian company?
You’re right that Viking has a big American market. I believe the owner / company ethos is Scandinavian but they seem to focus on the American market as there were lots of American travelers on our journey.
I’m not sure what you mean by “what would be comparable to a cabin with a balcony”. Are you asking about accommodation on Viking? All the rooms are quite nice, the more expensive rooms get you more a bigger floorplan, higher floor and potentially a small outdoor balcony. For us, we had a small outdoor area – not too big, just enough to fit a small table and chairs and have a glass of wine or morning coffee. Hope that helps!
Or do you mean what are the rooms like without a balcony? If you go to Viking’s website here and scroll down, they have a floorplan of the Europe river ships and each room. There’s also pictures of the standard / french balcony and veranda rooms. Hope that helps!
Hi Sher – My wife and I will be going on our first cruise ever in September 2019 on the Amsterdam to Basel run, with an extra few days in Basel. I had booked a couple months ago and splurged on the two room Veranda suite. We’re very much looking forward to the trip but was curious if our suite is worth the cost. Will we find that we spend very little time there anyway? Thanks for your great website.
Hi Doug – ooh fancy! We haven’t personally stayed in the suites before, but we’ve gotten a peak into the rooms and they look super spacious and very nice.
We definitely spend a lot more time in our rooms on river cruises vs. ocean cruises, as there’s not as much on board entertainment. Also if the weather is great, it’s very nice to sit on the balcony with a glass of wine during sailings and typically September is beautiful in Europe!
I was thinking of cruising the rhine w/viking, is November OK to do this??? Thx
Hi Karen – Hm.. November might be a bit cold. I think May to October might be more comfortable weather wise!
I enjoyed this blog so much, we were thinking of doing a cruise, but now you have convinced me. Excellent writing, informative , and your photos are wonderful.
One question, my husband enjoys a good cigar and drink, is there a designated smoking section with a view or just an area for smoking?
Thank you again for such a great blog.
PS just started following you on Instagram!!
Is their drinks package worth the price?
Hi Peter – it depends on how much you like to drink ;) Viking includes house wine with lunch and dinner. If you want other drinks, or perhaps cocktails after dinner, then I would say it’s worth getting. If you are fine with wine during meals, then don’t bother!
One of the best written river cruise reviews I’ve ever read. Sher, you have a great style in presenting activities as well as the cruise experience.
Wondering how well the cruise would be for me as I am oxygen 24 hrs….Also is there much climbing involved?
Hi Cliff – The ship has an elevator on board that you can use. For the excursions, there wasn’t any climbing but the tour of Marksburg Castle had VERY uneven paths (broken stones) so I’d probably recommend skipping that.
Hi great information, was wondering when do you think is the best time of month to do this cruise? I was thinking March or October, any thoughts?
Hi Suzanne – the European river cruise season starts in May. Usually the clean the ships in the winter and do maintenance, upkeep etc, so I don’t think March sailings for the Rhine river are available. I could be wrong! I also think it would be too cold in March to enjoy.
October would be nice! I haven’t done any fall sailings but I think it would be much less crowded and perhaps the leaves would change. Plus there’s Oktoberfest in Germany in October!
We are doing our first Viking cruise in October 2019. Amsterdam to Basel. We are arriving from Philadelphia. We do not have the pre or post add on days, but do want to see the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Do you think we will have time? Also, I was interested in the added excursion to the top of one of the cathedrals and was under the impression there was an elevator, however, also saw where you had to climb over 300 steps! I have found your website to be very informative.
Hi Donna, thanks! Hm.. I’m not sure if you have time for the Anne Frank house. On the last day of the cruise, you’re expected to leave the ship quite early (I believe before noon), but if your flight is that evening, you may have time.
Make sure to book your tickets online before your trip, you can do that on their official website. It’s one of the THE most popular attractions in Amsterdam so expect really long lines. Or, you can take a walking tour that covers the history of Ann Frank, these are pretty popular.
Regarding the cathedral.. I assume you mean the Cologne one? It’s been a long time since I went to the top (I went before the Viking trip) so I don’t quite remember. I believe there is no lift, as it’s a very historic, old church. But you can double check with Viking before booking their excursion!
Have a great trip :)
Great info thanks
We are planning our trip on Viking River Cruises from Amsterdam to Basil in mid May, and I”m trying to figure out what and how much to pack. I see that the weather is quite changeable, rainy, cool to moderate. Are there laundry services on board the ship (Viking Einar) or facilities for guest to go their own laundry?
Hi Deborah, Yes if I remember correctly there’s laundry service on board.
Sher – my sister’s and some girlfriends of ours are planning our 1st ever international trip for our 50th bdays (gulp, can’t believe we will be 50!). As most of us have never been overseas and an international trip is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for us, we need a trip that is easy to navigate for newbies and gets us the most bang for our buck (see all we can). I have several questions for you: Did Viking pay for you to take this trip? Do you think the Rhine Getaway would be a good choice for this group based on my description above? Is there any “night life” for the evenings (we don’t want to be in large touristy areas but do want to experience as much as possible)? We don’t want to go during peak season or the worst weather time. Would April be a good time to go? Many of us either have German and/or Irish heritage so we were wanting to fly to Ireland at the end of the cruise. Is that possible?
I’m sure I will have a ton more questions so please let me know how best to communicate with you. Thank you so much for your post. It was very helpful.
Hi Tracie – ooh sounds like a fun birthday milestone! To answer your questions:
No – Viking did not pay me to take the trip (but that would be the dream). I did receive the Rhine cruise complimentary, along with several other journalists, in exchange for taking photos and showcasing the cruise on my Instagram account. I ended up loving the trip so much that I decided to write a more in-depth review on my website. They had no control or input in what I wrote – the article is entirely my own opinions.
Should you take the Rhine Getaway for your group trip? I think it depends. If you are looking to celebrate with a bang, then no Viking probably isn’t the trip. At least, not their river cruises. The river cruise ships are intimate (maybe 100+ passengers) and there isn’t much in the way of entertainment at night. No casino, no pool, no shows, dancing etc. There is a pianist on board, a roomy lounge and a great bar, but that’s about it.
The ocean cruises (which I have not been on) are much larger ships with entertainment on board.
You can go out at night off the ship if the boat is docked. It depends on the city though. Some cities have their docks right in the town center, like Cologne, so you could stay out all night until the ship leaves the next morning. Other cities, like Paris, the docks are about 30-45 min driving outside Paris proper, so it’s less convenient. Viking will organize shuttles for you to go into a nearby town, but if you wanted to go out at night into Paris, you would have to take your own taxi. For places like Rome, forget it – its like a 2 hour drive. It just depends on the city’s port logistics.
If you are ok with a more cultural, relaxing trip then Viking would be good. And then you can fly to Ireland after and party :) Dublin is a great city for that, and all over Ireland, the pubs are fantastic, the people are so friendly, it’s a great country to have a good time in!
The river cruise season kicks off in mid May, so April is a bit too early. Try late May or early June, or maybe mid September – mid October, to avoid crowds + have great weather.
Hope that helps
My husband and I are going on the Rhine Getaway this summer. I have 2 questions:
1) Strasbourg – should we take the optional Strasbourg from the Top? Or stick to the included Strasbourg Highlights?
2) Heidelberg – we are doing the 6 hr included tour in the morning. We thought it would be fun to do the Dine in City Rudesheim that evening for $158 total. Is that worth it???
Many thanks! Have enjoyed and learned so much reading your review and insights.
Hm, I stuck to the included Strasbourg tour and thought it was a good half day tour. We had free time after to explore the city. If you like a good view, maybe the optional is good? I don’t think there is an elevator for the cathedral though – its stairs. Up to you!
For your second question, I just double checked the Viking website because I can’t remember the specifics. They list the Rudesheim am Rhein optional on the Koblenz Day, not the Heidelberg day. That’s the add-on dinner you’re referring to right?
But under the Heidelberg day, I wrote we went to Rudesheim that night on our own so I think you are right about it being the Heidelberg day. If I remember correctly, the boat docks in Rudesheim, so you can go into town on your own and choose a restaurant if you want. I don’t think the optional is necessary.
If you are interested because you want a good local dinner, we heard rave reviews from the people on board who did the Schloss Johannisberg castle dinner + wine tasting, the next night in Koblenz.
If you do choose that, just to let you know, the fun ‘local dinner’ night that Viking does is on the same evening. So whatever you chose, it will be a memorable dinner!
On board they decorate it like a mini Oktoberfest, with music and local cuisine, beer, pretzels, schnitzel etc. It was loads of fun, but only half the people were on board (other half chose between the optional dinners and they came back very happy too).
Hope that helps – have a great trip!
We just booked this cruise for April 2020. What a wonderful blog. Thank you so much. I will be checking back and taking notes!!
We have booked the cruise from Basel to Amsterdam for late September, our 50th anniversary. We did Avignon to Lyons last year on Viking and loved it! Your descriptions of life on ship are spot on. We are seniors and I have a knee problem (May have surgery soon, took the insurance) and found the “leisure” walking groups doable. Did not ascend the Popes’ Palace but admired from below. Question: Recommendations for hotels in Amsterdam? Fantastic blog. Thank you.
We are going on the Rhine Getaway (our first river cruise) very shortly–love your review!
My question: should we get “the local money” euro or do most of the shops take American credit cards? Thanks.
Hi Linda, ooh fun! Have a great trip! Hm, for the most part the cruise is “all inclusive” so you would only need cash for souvenirs and any meals you wanted to take on your own. Most restaurants and stores will take American credit cards with chips but to be safe, you can take some euro out. Ask your bank if they will change for you? Ours offers it without fees.
We have been on Viking a few times. You really did them well with your descriptions. They are a great company and we feel they really treat you well.I would love to do a cruise like you did and write about everything. I have suggested it to them and haven’t heard back. I would love to rate their ocean ships, especially northern Norway.
We are going on Paris to the Swiss Alps in September for 12 days then followed by 4 days of post trips to Zermatt and Geneva. Since this is going to be my first trip, would you suggest to bring a medium size luggage – around 26” and personal bag, or carry-on luggage and personal bag are enough?
Hi Dina – ah, hard to say. If I can, I usually bring personal bag + carry on. But for 2 week trips sometimes I need a checked suitcase. I will say the nice thing about cruises is you can unpack once, so there’s less worry about hauling a case to and from!
Such a great blog!! Thank you so much for all the information! My husband is looking at the same itinerary for Nov 2020 as a 15th wedding anniversary trip; even the extra days in Amsterdam. I was unsure, never taken a river cruise, but I am very excited now! I am just unsure about mid-November weather. I don’t mind cool temps; how much of a difference weather wise do you think going in October would be? Thanks again!
Hi Amy! I would typically recommend October over mid November. The weather is a little better and sometimes in Europe things will close for the season by mid October. Double check opening times for any attractions you want to visit, and also see if fall foliage will take place in October or November! I think fall colors would be amazing for a river cruise!
We are going on the same cruise on this same ship in early August. I can’t wait! Love the blog and your information! Your blog was more of an “any person’s view.” Some other blogs don’t give as much information or are clearly biased as a travel expert, and difficult to relate to.
Are soft drinks available all day? Are they included in the price? I understand beer and wine is included with dinner. If not, are there stores in town where you can soft drinks to keep in your room?
Are you able to go on and off the ship as often as you like? What do you need to carry with you in town, ie passport? I was really hoping to go for a couple of early morning jogs along the river.
Ah, thanks so much for the kind words :)
Soft drinks are available during lunch and dinner times and included. There’s a coffee machine that makes espresso, latte, etc drinks that’s available any time of day.
You can go on and off the ship anytime it’s docked (but some parts of the day, you may be sailing). Typically when the ship pulls into a town, there will be a morning or afternoon excursion – usually 1 is a free guided walking tour and 1 is an paid optional tour. You can do one, both, or none and explore on your own!
I usually leave my passport in the safe – I don’t carry it into town. I usually would just bring a wallet and day bag. Hm, I’m not sure if early morning jogs are possible, since it depends when the ship arrives but usually there is an overnight in a location and you could definitely do a morning jog then!
We are taking this cruise in September of 2020 but from Amsterdam to Basel. Although too early to get our flight information, we are NOT going two days early. If our flight gets in early enough we would like to try to see one of the museums. Does the transport from the airport take you directly to the ship even if hours before the 3 pm check in time? And, would we be able to leave our suitcase on the ship and go to the museum? And finally, would the Viking staff be able to help us get the admission ticket to the Rijksmuseum? Seeing “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt is on his bucket list. Thanks in advance!
We’re doing the Rhine as well, but Amsterdam to Basel. If our flight gets in early enough we’d love to see the Rijksmuseum, my hubby wants to see Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”. Would the Viking staff be able to help us with getting admission tickets when we arrive at the ship? Will we be able to leave our suitcase on the ship even if our room us not ready? Thanks in advance.
Yes, if you choose to take Viking’s transport they will take you directly to the ship. Both times we’ve sailed with Viking our flights have been redeyes, so we arrived in the morning on the first day. We checked in (Viking stores your luggage) and rooms aren’t ready (until 12pm I think) but you can relax in the common areas and Viking will set up lunch.
We did started in Basel, and Viking also organized a nice extra walking tour for any passengers who arrived early the first day. I’m not sure if the same applies if you start in Amsterdam. Basel is a very small city, and the ship docks pretty much in the center of the old town, so if the docking situation is similar in Amsterdam, I would think they would offer the same (but again, I’m not sure)
Amsterdam is extremely popular with tourists, so you should see what the museum ticket policy is. Is the Night Watch a big attraction? Sometimes you can buy tickets online in advance, especially for really popular sights that hoards of people want to see.
I’m not sure if Viking can get you tickets when you arrive.. I would imagine it would be a little difficult the day of since the staff is typically busy with cleaning the ship, check outs and new arrivals, but you can ask their customer support to see? On Viking’s website they have a chat function where you can speak to customer service. Or it might be straight forward to just take a cab from the ship to the museum and buy tickets directly.
Hope that helps! Enjoy the trip :)
Hello! I really enjoyed reading this and such lovely photos … can’t wait for our river cruise to begin next weekend. We are booked on the the Eir Longboat cruising from Amsterdam to Basel and then two days in Lucerne. We have prebooked every included excursion (don’t want to miss anything!!) My question is: can you remember the time in the morning that the excursions start? Being retired, we are quite used to our lazy mornings and worried that the excursion departure times will be a bit early for us. Thank you!
Hi Patsy! Hm.. each excursion is different, but generally the programmed activities would start each day around 8am (if I remember right). So we’d get up around 7 to get ready and have breakfast. Every day was different, depending on if the ship docks right in town or if there’s driving.. but in general I’d say 7:30am-9am start times.
I usually am a night owl, but on trips I think it’s a little easier to get up early since I’m excited and with the time difference. I’m sure you guys will have a great time!
Thanks for your very helpful, “real person” information & the responses you provide to all the questions ! I will be sailing the same route later this year, and have a delicate question. What is the restroom situation on the tour buses or in the various towns ? I have a sensitive stomach and never know when something may disagree with me. I will likely skip breakfasts before the included (typically morning) free tours… but can’t skip all meals ! Do ALL the tour buses have an emergency restroom on them ? Are some of the castle tours soooo long that it is impossible to use a restroom before the end of the tour ? Is it easy to find a public restroom (even in a small coffee shop and then buy something from them in return) along the walking tours or during afternoon free time ? I am very glad to see you can slip away from a tour if needed. That piece of information is priceless ! (Did anyone do that & then were they able to find their group again in a little while ?)
Hi Liz – yes the coaches all have bathrooms on board. Depending on the itinerary you pick, the driving times differ. For the Rhine cruise, most of the drives were pretty short.
We’ve also done the Paris to Normandy cruise and the day you visit Normandy is a very long day with long (2 hr) drives. Italy is similar – very long drives. It basically boils down to the distance between the port and the town.
Yes, plenty of coffee shops to pop into!
If you leave the group tour (we did a couple times), it’s pretty difficult to find them again, since the group is constantly on the move. We tried once and couldn’t rejoin the group.
Your review of the Rhine River Cruise is most helpful! We have our first cruise booked November 8th, 2019 Basel to Amsterdam…it looks like it might be cold…I hope it’s early enough in November that it wont be…:( Question…is it worth the extended 2 day in Amsterdam? Thank you!
Hi Linda, so glad it’s helpful! We didn’t book the 2 day extension, as we had visited Amsterdam before. I think if you haven’t been, it might be nice for convenience but Amsterdam is also a very easy city to see on your own.
We are going on this cruise in September 2019. We want to meet a friend in either Heidelberg or Koblenz. What time is the afternoon “on-board” for passengers, and what time in the morning can passengers generally leave the ship? Viking can’t give us even a range of times for either. Any insight is appreciated.
I don’t know offhand and I think it probably varies on each trip – depending on which route you are doing (starting in Basel vs starting in Amsterdam), the water levels, how fast you go through the locks, traffic with other ships, etc.
You can try asking the crew when you go on board. Typically they lay out a program the night before for the following day, with more specific schedule times.
Great article and pictures! We are going on the Zurich to Paris 12 day Viking Cruise on March 28th, 2020. We were assured by the Viking agent that April weather will be in the 60’s. Sounds like it will be colder than that. I spoke to two friends that went on a similar Viking cruise on the Rhine. One did not like it, the other loved it. The person that didn’t like it said the food was so so, and you were only treated well at meals if you tip. We were thinking of paying gratuities in advance. What do you think?
Hi Patrice – ooh Zurich to Paris sounds like a nice itinerary! Hm, I do think April will be quite chilly. Weather is hard to predict but I definitely find that winter seems to get longer every year. I think it’s hard to get truly nice, all day sunny weather in Europe until early June. It will most likely be jacket, sweater + scarf weather in April and even May. The upside is much less crowds :)
I’ve been on several Viking cruises now. The first I thought the food was fantastic, the second time it was only good. Maybe I have gotten more picky (ha) but I think the food quality is definitely solid (maybe it wont blow you away, but hopefully you wont feel disappointed!).
I find it a little odd that your friend mentioned that about tipping to get good service. The one thing I think Viking does an excellent job of compared to other companies, is having extremely friendly service. the dining staff especially are very very nice. If you sit in the same area frequently, some of the really attentive staff even start remembering your drink / meal preferences. I never felt any pressure to tip individually, ahead of or during the trip.
It’s up to you, but I would suggest paying gratuity at the end. I know some companies now offer that you can pay in advance of a trip, but I don’t really know that the money gets to the staff on your itinerary that way. How do they keep track of it all? And do they really divvy it out to everyone on board? Also I think it’s nice to tip at the end, so you can have discretion if you want to tip an individual staff member separately, or what have you. Sometimes certain people on board go out of their way to make your trip memorable.
If you get to the airport early and take a tour with viking do they take care of your luggage before you can board the ship?
hm in our experience you can generally board the day your cruise starts. the bus will take you from the airport to the ship and then they’ll store your luggage for you until the rooms are ready. usually they put out lunch too, and sometimes a bonus walking tour if the ship is docked near the city (depends on which itinerary you’re taking). and sometimes, if you’re lucky, rooms are ready early!
My daughter and I are getting ready to do this same itinerary. My second VRC, her first. We are both so excited to be traveling together. Thanks for the great pictures and information.
Is it really a bummer to be in the economy rooms? The river cruise we are looking at is the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel and looking at going with friends who booked way before us. Most of the rooms are booked and only economy ones left. Just wondering if this will really be a downer?
Hi Gail! What time of year are you looking to visit?
I think it depends how much you value hotel rooms / rooms in general. Obviously the more expensive cabins are nicer, but if you like to socialize and plan to hang out in the bar and common areas, then the room is really just a place to sleep. The beds, showers, closets etc are the same across all the rooms.
The more expensive rooms are on a higher floor, have a larger square footage and have better views (larger windows, some with balconies, etc). I think honestly it is a nice to have, but the thing you remember most about a vacation is the destination and the memories, not the rooms :)
Oh and I asked what time of year, because we took a winter cruise and did not use the balcony at all, whereas in the summer the extra outdoor space was very nice and a great way to enjoy the sailing portions. So in colder or rainy months, having a balcony or extra large window is probably not very important, vs in late spring/summer.
I would like to do a river cruise. What is a cruise that has tours inside for castles and palaces? I would like to see beautiful interiors. If I do the Rhine getaway should I take post cruise to Amsterdam for any inside tours of castles or palaces and cathedrals also? Cathedrals on the Rhine getaway inside tours? Are tours expensive foe what I want to see?
The Rhine Getaway itinerary I reviewed in this article does include some cathedrals and castle ruins.
But, most of the castles on the Rhine river are ruins or old medieval castles, they’re not so much “Disney” like castles. For that, I believe you would need to rent a car and do a road trip as they’re not on the water.
You could do the Viking Rhine cruise above, and then do a post cruise trip to Copenhagen. Some of the most beautiful castles I’ve ever seen are in Copenhagen – I wrote about them in this post.
We booked our flights through Viking and then explored Copenhagen on our own, which was pretty easy as it’s a very modern city.
Just curious what your trip cost. We’re looking at $5,000-$6,000 per person in late October, including airfare from MN (about $600 per person), for this itinerary. Does that sound right?
Hi Shelley, Cost depends on so many factors (time of year, cabin, add on tours, flight pricing, etc), but Viking has a dates + pricing chart on their website that you can use to compare.
Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. I enjoyed reading your reviews and it is very helpful. I’m planning the trip in early November 2020 for my 30th anniversary. I have a few questions.
Will it be a place inside the ship to sit and enjoy the view when sailing through the UNESC part of the Rhine when it is too cold outside?
How much the optional excursion will be raftly around?
2020 will be marked Beethoven’s 250th birthday. I really like to go to Bonn. Is it possible that I can go our own when ship dock in Cologne?
Hi Tracy, sounds like a great birthday trip!
The best viewing point is on the roof deck, but there is also a smaller room with floor to ceiling windows, the Aquavit casual dining room, where you can enjoy the view indoors.
Each of the optionals has their own price, but they should be listed on Viking’s website. Hm, I’m not sure if you will have time to see Bonn when in Cologne. You can ask the Tour Director when you are onboard to see if there is enough time.
How comfortable are the beds
What did you do on your amsterdam 2 day extension tour and do you know where I can find more specific info on the Viking extended tour
Hi JoAnne, we’ve been to Amsterdam on a previous trip so we didn’t opt for the 2 day extension tour with our Viking cruise. But, you can find more information about the optional extensions on Viking’s website!
We booked the Rhine Getaway for May 2020. I really appreciate your comments & suggestions.
We are excited to go especially after reading this article.
ooh have fun! May is a great time to visit :)
Love this blog. Found it today. Never been on a river cruise. I’m about to book the Basel to Amsterdam for my 60th b’day with my wife in Sept. So is the best way to book the cruise on line directly with Viking ? Any advantages going through a travel agent ? Tks Pierre
We are doing the Rhine Getaway in August 2020. Have enjoyed reading many of your reviews/suggestions. I know the currency is euros, do local vendors accept credit cards? What amount of currency do you recommend for an 8 day cruise? Most likely will do meals on the ship when possible. Thank you.
Yes most places in Europe take credit card. Just make sure you have a credit card with a chip on it, and that you let your bank company know you’ll be traveling abroad.
If you plan to eat most meals on the ship, I don’t really think you need much else, except for how much you want to spend on souvenirs.
Just found your blog and am loving reading all about this cruise! We’re taking this exact one for our honeymoon in April and it’s getting me even more excited!
I stumbled onto this blog while doing research for our up and coming River cruise. It sounds like almost the same cruise with one small stop difference (you stopped in Heidelberg and we’re stopping in Steyer. This article really helped solidify what I had already heard about Viking. I’ve been on several cruises on those big ships and cannot wait to do this river cruise. Thanks for the info.
How did you obtain your tour guide for Strausburg, was it through Viking or an independent source?
Hi Virginia, Viking provides all the tour guides. Strasbourg is part of the itinerary so the tour + guide were included with the cruise.
There are also extra tours available at an additional charge for some of the stops. For example, we paid for the Colmar day tour and on that optional tour, Viking also provided the tour guide (and transportation). Hope that helps
I also want to know about the comfort of the beds!
Hi Vicki, I thought the beds were comfy for a ship! To be honest I can fall asleep anywhere so I’m probably not the best person to ask..
Thanks so much for this post! My fiancé and I are scheduled to go on the first Viking Rhine Getaway on Aug 1 after COVID! I’m in my 20s and he’s in his 30/, so I’m assuming we will be some of the younger ones on board.. my biggest question is about attire. I pretty much live in athleisure so I’m worried we are going to be too informal compared to the rest of the crowd. What kinds of things do people wear during the day tours and dinners on board?
Ooh I’m jealous of your trip!
I would say you can wear whatever you want. There’s no dress code and Viking is pretty casual. Some people do dress up for dinner (just a nice top and jeans/pants) but it’s not required by any means. For the excursions, they’re usually walking tours so most people wear comfy clothes (good walking shoes, comfy pants, t-shirt and jacket if it’s colder).
We’ve all had about 18 months of lounging at home in sweats, so I don’t think anyone will look twice at wearing athleisure :)
Have a great time!
We depart on 9/15/21 and are so excited our rescheduled 2020 trip is happening this year! We’re doing the Lake Como extension before our cruise and staying in Amsterdam for two days on our own after the cruise. Any suggestions of things we must see or do?
Oooh that’s amazing! Yes I have a lot of posts on Lake Como and Northern Italy (under the Destinations menu tab, or you can type in the search box)
I noticed that the cruise includes 3 meals/day. My concern would be what if you’re out sightseeing and you want to experience the local cuisine by eating lunch or dinner in the town? Do you get a choice of not eating every meal on board the ship? I would want to eat at the different restaurants. Do you just pay for all the meals and if you want to skip some on the ship, you just eat the cost?
Yup, you an definitely skip the ship meals and eat at local spots if you’d like!
Thank you for sharing this very detailed and encouraging insight into the Viking Rhine River tour. Our 4 children gave us a Viking Rhine River tour for our 50th wedding anniversary (Oct. 16th) because during our 2nd year of marriage we lived in Erlangen, Germany for the year. We are in the planning phase of our trip. We hope to go in the May timeframe. Your post has given us great encouragement.
We have several questions and would appreciate your unbiased input:
1. My wife is diabetic (Type 2) and takes medicine that makes her have to use the bathroom about every 2 hours. Is that going to be a problem while touring, hanging around town, or riding on the bus?
2. We are 74 and 75 respectively, and while we are in fairly good health, long, rushed , arduous walking would not be fun or even physically welcome. Is that a problem?
3. We have heard from friends who have taken ocean cruises that sometime the evening entertainment is very risque. This would not be appealing to us, so we were wondering if that is what we might experience?
4. Since the world is not fully over COVID, what are the chances that that is going to have us in masks the whole time, or worse yet end up quarantined somewhere?
Thank you for any insights you can provide especially since you traveled with you Mom.
Hud and Susan
Hi Hud and Susan, that’s so sweet of your kids! I think you’ll really enjoy the river cruise. It’s very relaxing and you can do as much or as little as you want :) I also really loved the Rhine itinerary and the whole river cruising experience.
For the Rhine River itinerary, I don’t recall that we had any significantly long (2+ hour) bus rides. Most of the bus rides were 30 minutes to an hour and there is a bathroom on the bus for emergencies. You can check with Viking’s customer service about the bus times (just to be sure), as I’m sure it can vary slightly from year to year and on weather conditions. Basically if the ship can dock in a port that’s near town, the transportation time is very short. In some countries though, like Italy, the cruise terminals are located quite far from the city, so if you picked one of the Italy itineraries you might be subjected to long bus rides. But for the Rhine itinerary it’s not like that at all, and sometimes the ship can dock right in town and you walk off the boat and are in the city center! overall I *think* it would be ok in terms of your wife’s medicine. There are multiple bathrooms on board Viking, and in town there is always a cafe where you can get a cup of coffee and use the facilities.
There is typically a guided tour every day (usually in the morning) and Viking always has a slower paced group option. So you can join that group for the walking tour and it will be a more leisurely pace and route. Even for the regular groups, my mom didn’t find the pace to be rushed or strenuous, but pretty relaxing.
No, if anything there isn’t that much entertainment on the river cruise at night. Most people go to the lounge to socialize or get a drink, or relax in their room on the balcony.
Hm, I don’t know about the mask situation. You can probably ask Viking’s customer service for their policy on board. And you can check the country government health websites for each city on the itinerary. I would hope things would be even better in spring of next year, but you really never know!
Hope this helps
Were you aware that if you book two cruises back to back on Viking, butterfly cruises, that they won’t honor the promotions on either cruise? I booked two cruises that had free air promotions. Even though Viking was saving money by paying for one airfare instead of two, they would not agree to honor the promotions. Their solution was for me to cancel the second cruise. Strange that they would penalize me for giving them more business.
hm that is really strange! i’ve never tried back to back cruises, but good to know
Thank you for this wonderful article. I am wondering if it makes sense to save $$ and get a lower priced cabin without a balcony of any sort.
Thanks so much for this valuable information. It is much appreciated! We’ll be on the Rhine Getaway cruise this coming August. Do you know which stops where the ship docks you are able to walk off the ship right into a town or very close to it? Also, is there a way to find out how long the drive by bus is for each excursion? I read reviews on another site that particularly complained about the drive to the Black Forest and that there really wasn’t a lot of time to look around once there. It sounds like out of a 4 hour excursion, almost 3 hours are traveling by bus. Thanks for your help.
Hi Shelley, glad it was helpful! I remember Koblenz we docked right in town so you could walk off the ship and be in the middle of the historic area. That stop was overnight so you could explore all night if you wanted to!
Most of the other stops, the ship will be close to town but docked for only a couple hours. So it’s about enough time to do the tour + have some free time then time to leave.
I don’t remember any long bus rides other than Colmar, but it wasn’t bad.. maybe an hour. It could change by year though! I think Viking and all the cruise ships may change docks from season to season, as routes depend on water levels, weather conditions + town permits.
Hi, very interesting blog. We are from Canada and meeting up with friends from UK and have booked a Rhine cruise in September. I’ve been trying to find where Viking docks in Basel, can you help? Thanks in advance.
Hi Sue, I don’t know the exact name of the dock (and it may change from year to year) so best to ask Viking’s customer service!
Love your blog, Sher! Did you do the full-day Taste of Alsace tour in Strasbourg? I have signed up for it on my upcoming Rhine River tour despite its “Difficult” rating. While i can walk pretty well for longish distances (up to 2 miles at a time), I have trouble with steep inclines and with steps unless there is a rail to hold onto and I am hoping the rating is simply because it involves a full day of walking from place to place, rather than because of a lot of stairs and steep terrain, etc. Any insights you can give??? — Jackie, age 71
Ah, I didn’t do that tour sorry! Maybe viking’s customer service team can give you a more detailed breakdown of the tour.. I remember also that the staff on board are very accommodating! In general, Strasbourg is a nice big flat city – it’s not one of those tiny historic towns with uneven cobblestones. i don’t remember much stairs or steep terrain.
I want to thank you so much for this information. We are going on the Rhine cruise next week (concerned about water levels) and since we booked I’ve come across some Viking haters. This is a bucket list trip for us, so your information is much appreciated. I was wondering how much flexibility there is to get on and of the ships while at port. Can you just come and go? Thank you! And please pray for rain or do a rain dance.
yes, while the ship is docked you can come and go easily! it’s one of the things i like most about small ship cruises vs the massive cruise liners
Great article! We leave today for our 1st river cruise with Viking! A bit worried about water levels on the Rhine river. Disappointed to learn that Viking no longer offers the walking tour on the day of arrival in Basel. Was really looking forward to that!
I have been trying to get a Rhine itinerary with a more accurate detail of the time arrive and depart in each port…. even approximately would help.
I think their sailing schedules may shift so that’s likely why they don’t have detailed times published. You can try asking customer service